Jurors in a Lancaster County, Nebraska, court found former Nebraska football player Katerian LeGrone not guilty of sexually assaulting a female student in 2019 after about a week of testimony.
LeGrone, 21, and his former teammate Andre Hunt were charged with first-degree sexual assault after the woman reported the alleged Aug. 25, 2019, incident to the Lincoln Police Department.
Both men were suspended indefinitely from the football team the next day, and as of that December, they were no longer on the roster. Officials at Nebraska who investigated the woman's Title IX sexual misconduct complaint found the two men responsible for assaulting her, and the university expelled them in April 2020. Both men are still listed as active in the NCAA transfer portal.
The woman told jurors that she accepted Hunt's invitation to come to his apartment, which he shared with LeGrone, to hang out. She said as soon as she arrived, Hunt led her to the bedroom and initiated sex, which she said in court she did not want. She also said she did not physically or verbally resist because she felt pressured and scared.
She said she noticed another man, LeGrone, enter the room, but Hunt positioned blankets around her head and held her head down so she could not see LeGrone. She said that while Hunt was having sex with her as she was facing away from him, he switched places with LeGrone, who then began having sex with her, to which she did not consent.
During testimony Friday, LeGrone's defense attorney, Mallory Hughes, asked the woman why she did not physically or verbally resist the sex after she realized LeGrone had switched places.
"You let Mr. LeGrone have sex with you for 15 minutes, isn't that true?" Hughes said.
The woman said, "He raped me for 15 minutes."
"Tell me every single thing you did to get him to stop having sex with you during those 15 minutes," Hughes asked. The woman responded, "I prayed."
Hughes said in her closing arguments: "You can't assume he should've known she didn't want to have sex. She saw him. He started having sex with her, and she didn't do anything about it. The law does not require this young man to read her mind."
"Our law says that women have a duty to resist," Hughes added. "When they see somebody approaching them, they have to say 'stop, get out.'"
The two men initially told police that LeGrone didn't have sex with the woman, according to testimony. Jurors watched a video in which LeGrone apologized to an officer for initially lying about not having sex with the woman, saying he was scared about the accusation. He then told the officer that he did, but only after she said it was OK for him to join.
But Hunt told jurors that he did not hear any such exchange between LeGrone and the woman. Hunt agreed to be a witness for the prosecutors in exchange for having his felony sex assault charge dropped to two misdemeanors for accessory to attempted false imprisonment and false information, according to testimony. LeGrone did not testify during the trial.
Jurors also heard from another female student, who said that in August 2018, LeGrone came into the room where she was having consensual sex with another football player and started having sex with her without her consent. She said she was shocked and surprised when she noticed LeGrone having sex with her. She said she stopped the activity, saying, "I don't know what you thought this was," and left. She would eventually report the incident to university investigators and police, but she told jurors that she did not want LeGrone prosecuted for what happened to her.
Hughes, LeGrone's attorney, asked the second woman about being part of a Title IX lawsuit against the university "for money." The lawsuit references the university's handling of the woman's report of the alleged 2018 assault, as well as another incident she reported, along with former Nebraska volleyball player Capri Davis, that LeGrone and Hunt allegedly groped them at a party in March 2019.
Hughes questioned the woman who reported the alleged August 2019 sexual assault about her plans to also sue the university for financial gain, although that woman has not yet filed a lawsuit and is not part of the Title IX lawsuit filed by the other women.
In her questioning, Hughes repeatedly brought up and displayed social media posts and messages the woman sent to her friends while she was at Hunt's apartment that night and afterward. Hughes described those messages as being joking or lighthearted and inconsistent with being traumatized by an assault. In her opening statements, Hughes said the woman had planned to use the sexual encounter with Hunt and LeGrone as a means of getting revenge on her ex-boyfriend, whom she contacted afterward.
At a news conference after the trial, LeGrone said he plans to go back to school and continue to play football. "This experience was one of the hardest things I ever had to endure, my mom had to endure," he said. "But we kept our faith."
The Lancaster County Attorney, Pat Condon, issued a statement expressing his disappointment at the verdict and encouraging victims to come forward. "These are difficult cases. Not only during this Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, but at any time, victims of sexual assault should not be discouraged, especially when it comes to reporting sexual violence."